When Miranda Clubb connected with parents during the pandemic, the Lambton Public Health Nurse and prenatal educator noticed a startling trend.
“I saw such an increase in parents reporting symptoms of sadness, isolation, anxiety, and intrusive thoughts,” said Clubb, who provided prenatal classes online and was responsible for making the 48-hour postpartum assessment calls.
“They really had no services for this kind of support since the end of the [postpartum] program in 2018.”
Local families have gone without since funding was pulled from a Postpartum Adjustment Program in 2018, which was offered through St. Clair Child & Youth.
At the time, parents and health officials pushed hard for funding, predicting that without the program parents would wind up in the emergency department, require longer hospital stays, and even risk suicide. About 200 local individuals were referred for information and support each year.
The funding never came, and the onset of a global pandemic made things even worse, said Clubb, who enrolled in additional training — on her own time — to provide help for those suffering.
She completed a certification in perinatal mental health, cognitive behavioural therapy, and advance perinatal training through Postpartum Support International.
Meanwhile, officials with the Family Counselling Centre were also trying to address the service gap. They reached out to the Rotary Club of Sarnia to help fund a pilot project for a small postpartum support group earlier this year.
“And from there, we got additional funding through Ontario Health West (OH West) and managed to extend the program,” said Centre executive director Hani Dajani.
The newly funded Post Partum Support Program is being offered in partnership with Lambton Public Health and St. Clair Child & Youth Services, and started earlier this month.
In addition to weekly, in-person support groups, additional services will include a dedicated postpartum support counsellor, a self-help guidebook, and support from the Tel-check program.
Clubb immediately offered to facilitate the support groups, along with fellow public health nurse Nicole Strangway.
“We both took additional training through Pacific Postpartum Support Society, who specialize in peer support groups and have been running them for over 20 years out west.”
Clubb said the support groups will be a lifesaver for struggling parents.
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders impact one in three people who have birthed or adopted a baby during the pandemic, according to the Pacific Postpartum Support Society. And they can impact those beyond the birthing parents — including partners, caregivers, and adoptive parents.
“The goal is to shorten this difficult time through supportive connection, feeling understood, and learning practical coping skills and supportive plans,” said Clubb, noting partnerships with groups like Sarnia’s Lovewell Collective, which provides supports for those who are pregnant, parents and caregivers.
The free support group runs Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and registration will remain open to anyone interested in joining. No referrals are required.
“There is power in hearing your story in other people, to know that you are not alone,” she said.
For more information and to sign up for a future support group, visit postpartum.familycounsellingctr.com.
If you are struggling, contact the Distress Line at 1-888-DISTRES (347-8737).